Fed Cup World Group II: Slovakia Upsets Italy, Russia, Belgium and Ukraine Take Care Of Business - UBITENNIS
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Fed Cup World Group II: Slovakia Upsets Italy, Russia, Belgium and Ukraine Take Care Of Business

In a surprise upset, Slovakia defeated Italy away, while the Russian D-team took care of Chinese Taipei. Belgium edged out Romania in three incredibly close matches, and Ukraine sent Australia into play-off from regional groups.

Jakub Bobro

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Slovakia 3-2 Italy

 

Both teams were forced to deal with decimated teams- Slovakia without Cibulkova and Italy without Vinci, Giorgi or Knapp. The tie was played on indoor clay in Forli, Italy. 36 year-old legend Francesca Schiavone opened the tie against World No. 252 Anna Schmiedlova. The 2010 French Open winner took the match 6-3 6-1, and got Italy off to a good start. Following it was a clash between Sara Errani and Fed Cup debutant Rebecca Sramkova. Errani seemed to have it under control, winning the first set 6-2, but once Sramkova’s hard hitting Giorgi-like game started to work, there was no coming back. The Slovak No. 2 turned the match around to win 2-6 6-3 6-4 in her Fed Cup debut. Day 2 was started by Sara Errani facing Daniela Hantuchova. Errani struggled with movement and is most likely injured, leading to Hantuchova winning 6-2 6-0, and Errani finishing the match in tears. Sramkova then had a chance to win the tie for Slovakia and send them into World Group play-offs and she took it. Her high risks brought high rewards against Schiavone, whose contrasting styles made for a great match to watch. Sramkova kept her cool in the important moments, and won 6-2 6-4. The dead doubles rubber had Paolini and Trevisan, young Italian talents play Schmiedlova and Sramkova, who retired from the match at 2-5. Sramkova had the best possible debut for her country, winning 2 out of 3 points that Slovakia won, against higher ranked and much more experienced players.

Russia 4-1 Chinese Taipei

Russia’s F-team played Taipei’s B-team in Moscow. Russia’s team featuring Ekaterina Makarova, Anna Blinkova, Natalia Vikhlyantseva, and Anna Kalinskaya faced Chinese Taipei without Su-Wei Hsieh and Yung-Jan Chan. Makarova opened the tie with a shaky 6-3 5-7 6-1 win over Ya-Hsuan Lee, only for Kai-Chen Chang to equal with a 6-3 7-5 win over Kai-Chen Chang. Makarova then took care of business against Chang, and Natalia Vikhlyantseva was brought in to finish the tie against Lee. The Russian did so in an impressive manner, winning 6-1 6-2 in just 58 minutes. Blinkova and Kalinskaya won the dead rubber over Chan and Hsu 6-3 7-5. If Russia can mobilize and get a better team together for the play-offs, they can be almost assured that they will have a place in the World Group again.

Belgium 3-1 Romania

Even without the injured Simona Halep, Romania were still the favorites with the home advantage. Niculescu and Flipkens began the tie, both players with quite unusual playing styles. The faster indoor hard court suited the Belgian better, and Flipkens got the first point for her nation, winning 6-3 6-4. Sorana Cirstea played the second match of the day against Yanina Wickmayer, who won the marathon 3 hour and 22 minute match 7-6(4) 5-7 7-5, sending Belgium to a 2-0 lead. For Day 2, both captains changed their original line-ups. Irina-Camelia Begu played for Romania, and Elise Mertens was to close out the tie out. Begu was up 6-3 5-4, but Mertens just edged her out, closed out the tie with an almost 3 hour match, 3-6 7-5 7-5. Dead doubles rubber was won by Romania, who fielded Sorana Cirstea and Monica Niculescu, winning 6-2 6-0 over Kirsten Flipkens and Maryna Zanevska.

Ukraine 3-1 Australia

A Stosur-less Australian team was outed by Ukraine. Team led by Gavrilova failed to win any of the singles matches, and they could be relegated to the Asia/Oceania regional group for the first time in Fed Cup history, since 1963. Gavrilova really let her team down, as she lost easily to first Tsurenko, then to Svitolina. Ash Barty pushed Svitolina to three sets, but it was not enough. Ukraine move on to the World Group Play-Offs, and with an opponent like Netherlands, they can definitely be in World Group in 2018. Barty and Dellacqua got the doubles point for Australia, winning 6-2 2-6 10-8 over Nadia Kichenok and Olga Savchuk.

 

Davis Cup

Davis Cup: Croatia Replaces Captain Just Days Before The Finals

Zeljko Krajan is fired by the Croatian Federation because of contrasts with players. His replacement will be Franko Skugor. Ivo Karlovic was selected to replace Cilic but declined to play a Challenger in Houston

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Croatian Davis Cup captain Zeljko Krajan - 2018 Davis Cup Final (photo Gianni Ciaccia - Sportvision)

The Croatian Tennis Federation has issued a press release informing that Zeljko Krajan is no longer the Davis Cup captain for the Croatian team. Less than a week before the BNP Paribas Davis Cup Finals at the Caja Magica in Madrid, Krajan’s departure is described as a mutual decision by the official press release, but according to Croatian press agency Hina the former captain categorically denied this version of the events and confirmed he unwillingly had to acknowledge his dismissal. Krajan did not deny there had been disputes between himself and the Federation, but he thought everything had been settled: “I was ready for the press conference on Monday and the departure to Madrid on Tuesday” he said.

 

During the press conference in Zagreb on Monday, instead, the Croatian Tennis Federation named 32-year-old Franko Skugor as the new captain of the Croatian team who will lead the squad in Madrid next week: “These are not the ideal conditions for the team, given the situation, but it has been decided I will lead the team” said Skugor to the press. The President of the Tennis Federation Nikolina Babic explained their decision to replace the captain and confirmed the players agreed with this course of action: “Krajan had lost credibility among the players. We spoke to him and realized it would be better if he didn’t come to Madrid”.

This ends a tumultuous week for Croatian tennis: first there was Marin Cilic’s withdrawal from the team, then the controversial nomination of 40-year-old Ivo Karlovic as his replacement, despite his commitment to play the Houston Challenger next week to boost his chances for a Top 100 year-end ranking (he is currently n. 106) and a direct entry into the 2020 Australian Open singles main draw.

Some media outlets in Zagreb claiming to have access to inside sources are suggesting there are also financial issues behind the events of this last week: it is believed that some players did not like the idea of late-comer Ivo Karlovic receiving an equal share of the Davis Cup prize money. Furthermore, it is highlighted how the decision to remove Krajan from his post came after a meeting that included also the players, some of whom did not have a good relationship with Krajan: Borna Coric refused to play in Davis Cup in 2017 after being excluded from the Final in 2016 and Mate Pavic was kept out of the team on many occasions despite being one of the best doubles players in the world.

In order to replace Marin Cilic, the new Croatian captain nominated both Borna Gojo (ATP n. 279) and Nino Serdarusic (ATP n. 283) as singles players.

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Fed Cup

Captain Benneteau ‘Proud’ After France Seal First Fed Cup For 16 Years

Kristina Mladenovic won both the matches she was involved with to seal the Fed Cup title for France.

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Caroline Garcia And Kristina Mladenovic (@TennisAustralia - Twitter)

France’s Fed Cup captain Julien Benneteau expressed his pride after France edged out Australia 3-2 in the Fed Cup final. 

 

The visitors claimed their first Fed Cup title for 16 years in Perth after Kristina Mladenovic won both of the matches she was involved with.

https://twitter.com/FedCup/status/1193474574010195969

It all started after Mladenovic produced one of the greatest wins of her career by edging out world number one Ash Barty 2-6 6-4 7-6(1) in the first match of the day.

Both players had convincing wins on day one and it was the Australian who started the strongest, claiming the first set 6-2.

However Mladenovic struck back in the second set with a crucial break at 5-4 as she closed out the set to force a decider.

There was a lot of momentum shifts in the deciding set but eventually the world number 40 dominated the tiebreak to seal a shock win and a 2-1 lead for France.

Australia hit back in the second rubber of the day as Ajla Tomljanovic produced a solid performance to defeat Pauline Parmentier 6-4 7-5.

After a convincing loss in day one, Tomljanovic produced stunning shot-making to redeem herself and score her first Fed Cup win as an Australian.

The deciding rubber was a highly-anticipated doubles match between Ash Barty and Sam Stosur taking on Caroline Garcia and Kristina Mladenovic.

All four players had a combined total of 13 doubles grand slam titles as Australia had a good start to the match but lacked clinical edge after that.

The French team took advantage as they won the last two games of the opening set and the first two games of the second set.

This allowed them to control the tempo and when Stosur hit a volley long, the celebrations could start as they sealed a 6-4 6-3 win.

https://twitter.com/FedCup/status/1193466101319053312

After the match, Captain Julien Benneteau expressed his pride at his French side, “I’m the proudest man on the planet right now,” Benneteau claimed.

“I’m so proud of my girls and the team, they deserve it because they fought for a long time for this title. It’s a dream for me. I tried to imagine that at the beginning of the year when I knew that I could have the best team with me on the court. Eight months later, here we are.”

The win means it’s France’s third Fed Cup triumph overall and their first since 2003, with Kristina Mladenovic winning all three of the matches she was involved with.

As for Australia, it was emotional scenes as Barty didn’t seem to have enough in the tank to edge the Aussies over the finish line.

This final also means its the last traditional final as the format will now to change a one-week 12 team contest which will take place next April in Budapest.

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Fed Cup

Ash Barty And Kristina Mladenovic Power To Victory On Day One At Fed Cup Final

Ash Barty and Kristina Mladenovic produced one-sided victories to keep the score level after day one of the Fed Cup Final.

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Ash Barty (@TennisAustralia - Twitter)

Ash Barty and Kristina Mladenovic produced dominant displays to keep Australia and France level at the end of day one of the Fed Cup Final. 

 

In front of a sold-out RAC Arena in Perth, Australia were bidding for their first Fed Cup title since 1974 as they took on a reunited French team.

However their bid got off to the worst possible start as a nervy Ajla Tomljanovic was stunned by Kristina Mladenovic in 72 minutes.

Hitting 16 winners, the world number 40 pummelled her way past Tomljanovic to hand the visitors the early advantage.

Though the Australian debutant showed moments of brilliance, they were in patches as Mladenovic produced a stunning performance for the French team.

After the match, the doubles grand slam champion admitted she played the perfect match, “I really did almost a perfect match, I was really in the zone,” Mladenovic said in her on-court interview.

“I love these kind of events — the more the pressure it is, the bigger the pressure it is, the more special is the event. I came out there and I just wanted to win, basically.”

As France held the early lead, the pressure was on world number one Ash Barty to deliver and deliver she did in an equally impressive performance.

A 6-0 6-0 thrashing of Caroline Garcia was exactly what Australia ordered as Barty was ruthless in her dismantling of the French number two.

Eight aces helped Barty power past the world number 45 and the 40 degree temperatures as a mix of variety as well as power was evidence why every rubber the hosts of win this year has involved Barty.

https://twitter.com/TennisAustralia/status/1193039964126294016

After the 56 minute win the world number one explained how she executed her game-plan, “I think just overall today I executed very well. I made Caro pretty uncomfortable,” Barty said.

“I felt like in the first three or four of my service games I was in control of a lot of the points, and Caro is a player who like court position, she likes to be up in the court. So that was a key factor for me today. And that’s probably the best I’ve returned in a long long time.”

It is now 15 wins in a row for Barty in Fed Cup as she takes on Kristina Mladenovic in a crucial third rubber tomorrow.

Then Caroline Garcia is scheduled to take on Ajla Tomljanovic although both teams could be set to make changes depending on the scenario.

Should the two nations split the singles again then the deciding doubles will see Ash Barty and Sam Stosur take on Caroline Garcia and Kristina Mladenovic.

Play begins from 3am GMT time tomorrow, in what will be the last day of a traditional Fed Cup Final before the re-formatted version begins next year.

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